Mark of the Week: American Bisque

As of October 2017, our Worthopedia has 392 million listings!  We have over 34,000 marks listed in our Marks and Patterns tool for ceramics alone!  It’s easy to use our WorthPoint tools to help you identify exactly what you have in your cupboards. In our article, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Collectibles, we mention American Bisque as being the maker of the Rudolph cookie jar that sold for $1000 in May 2017.  In the following article, we tell you all you need to know about this week’s Mark of the Week:  American Bisque.

Some American Bisque pieces are marked with the initials “ABCO,” “A.B.Co.” or “ABCo”.

Company

American Bisque, located in Williamstown, West Virginia, began in 1919.  When World War I interrupted the German importation of Kewpie dolls, a craze for cartoon related baby dolls, American Bisque produced Kewpie dolls to satisfy the American demand.

B. E. Allen, a part owner of Sterling China Company, purchased American Bisque in 1922.  The company remained in the Allen family until it was sold in 1982. The company diversified under Allen’s leadership by moving away from Kewpie doll production to a range of other products including ashtrays, dinnerware, kitchenware, lamp bases, planters, and vases.

The American Bisque factory was destroyed twice.  In 1937, the Ohio River overflowed its banks and flooded by the factory.  In 1945, a fire destroyed the factory.  The plant was rebuilt. As a result, much of the historical documentation that might have existed has been lost.

The American Bisque Company had a close working relationship with the American Pottery Company located across the Ohio River in Marietta, Ohio. American Pottery made mixing kitchen wares, refrigerator storage containers, and wall pockets. The son of B. E. Allen, owned an interest in American Pottery.  Joseph Lenhard, owner of American Pottery, also served as sales manager for American Bisque.  The two companies worked together to buy the molds of the Ludiwici Company, New Lexington, Ohio.

A rare American Bisque Popeye cookie jar that sold for $2000 in May 2017.

Beginning in the late 1930s, American Bisque produced a line of cookie jars in novelty designs that included popular cartoon characters as well as animals and figures. These brightly colored, cheerful pieces were an instant hit.

Al Dye and Louise Bauer, daughter of the designer alter Bauer, are two notable designers that worked for American Bisque.  Dye designed novelty pieces for American Bisque in the 1960s and 1970s.  He is better known for his work with other potteries including American Pottery Co and McCoy.  Louise Bauer did design work for American Bisque while working as a freelance designer for several potteries between 1937 and 1944.  Her cookie jars are among the most famous American Bisque designs.  These include “Cat,” “Clown,” “Donald Duck,” “Pig” and “Thumper.”  American Bisque produced several Disney themed pieces.

American Bisque also made cookie jars for Cardinal China Company of Carteret, New Jersey and Leeds, a Chicago based distributor who held a Disney license.  Leeds also contracted with other manufacturers to produced Disney licensed cookie jars.

This Donald Duck Disney cookie jar sold for $199.99 in 2013.

In 1968, American Bisque expanded its product line, producing ashtray, candy dishes, salad sets, and tiered serving trays in a wider range of bright, solid colors.  These products were marketed under the Berkeley brand in chain stores and the Sequoia brand in gift shops.

A gradual drop in demand throughout the second half of the century as trends in home interiors changed, created financial difficulties.  In 1982. Bipin Mizra purchased American Bisque from the Allen family.  Mizra changed the company’s name to the American China Company.  Under Mizra’s ownership, production of the American Bisque products stopped.  The company switched its focus to making institution dinnerware for use by airlines. In 1983, all operations ceased and the factory closed.

What To Look For

American Bisque ranks alongside the major cookie jar designers such as McCoy and Brush.  American bisque collectors focus mostly on the cookie jars.

The majority of American Bisque pieces have two large unglazed wedge shapes underneath.  Most American Bisque pieces are marked simply “U.S.A.”  There may or may not be an incised mold number.

When identifying a piece of American Bisque pottery, look for base design.  The majority of American Bisque pieces have two large unglazed wedge shapes underneath.  This is not commonly seen in other pottery.  However, this is not a feature of every piece; smaller pieces may have a solid unglazed base.

Airbrushing was commonly used to decorate American Bisque designs.  This technique is another help in identifying the company’s products.  Some solid color decoration was “cold-painted,” making it likely to flake off or become worn away.

Crossover collectors, such as Disneyana and theme collectors, impact cookie jar prices.  Avoid buying pieces with paint loss.

This 1950’s American Bisque punch bowl and mug set sold for $30.50 in 2012.

Fakes are a problem – especially in some of the more popular American Bisque designs such as the Popeye, the Flintstones and the Caspar ranges. The most telling feature of counterfeit American Bisque is the size – fakes are generally smaller in size by as much as an inch.

Marks

Most American Bisque pieces are marked simply “U.S.A.”  There may or may not be an incised mold number.

Collectors believe there are unmarked designs that can be recognized by their other typical American Bisque features, for example, unglazed wedge base and airbrushed decorations.  These items may have been sold with paper labels that deteriorated.  Paper labels are known to have been used by American Bisque but are rarely encountered.

Some items are marked with the initials “ABCO,” “A.B.Co.” or “ABCo”.  This information often includes some variation of the phrase “patent pending” or “design patent applied.”  These pieces often have unusual lids or novelty designs that made them patentable.

A mark featuring the acronym AMBISCo WARE  (photo above) has been attributed to American Bisque but official records of this mark have not been found.

Cookie jars are often marked with a distinctive mark made up of three square blocks containing the initials A, B and C. This mark may be accompanied by an incised mold number, but not always.

Sequoia ware, a trademark used by American Bisque on items designed to be sold in gift shops, is marked with a tree containing the words “SEQUOIA WARE” in uppercase block lettering.  Berkeley, a range that was usually sold in chain stores is marked with the name BERKELEY in uppercase lettering inside a clover leaf motif.


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